The arrest came one week after a CBS4 investigation located Garrett and set up a face-to-face meeting with the woman via a single phone call.
“We would have loved to have caught her sooner,” explained Denver police Lt. Matthew Murray, a department spokesperson. He said after CBS4 found and spoke to Garrett, DPD “looked harder at it and tried to find her.”
Garrett served as a bookkeeper for Taylor Romero and Rebecca Miller, two Denver entrepreneurs who develop websites. They found Garrett through Craigslist and hired her to keep their company books, pay bills and manage credit card accounts. But by July of 2010, Romero and Miller said they found evidence Garrett was pilfering money, totaling almost $87,000.
On July 29, 2010, Romero, Miller and Garrett all went to Denver police headquarters. Romero and Miller told an investigator what had happened. According to police documents, “Garrett voluntarily gave a written confession.” Denver police reported at the time that Garrett “took money without asking. Ms. Garrett related she was taking money to pay for her medical bills because she does not have insurance.”
Det. Eric Nebel began working on the case. On October 25, 2010, Nebel had compiled enough evidence to obtain a probable cause arrest warrant for Garrett for felony theft. It was signed by a judge. Nebel e-mailed the victims that same day, “I was able to get an arrest warrant signed this afternoon for Ms. Garrett. I will try and have our fugitive unit get her picked up.”
In December the victims e-mailed the detective again asking if Garrett had been caught.
“I have an arrest warrant issued for Tammy,” wrote Nebel. “I do not have a good address in order to get her picked up. If someone can tell me where she is staying I can get her picked up.”
The following month, January 2011, Miller and Romero e-mailed the detective providing him with public records from the Colorado secretary of state showing Garrett was living in Englewood and had set up a new business, Bookkeeping Recovery.
“Thank you,” replied Nebel. “I just talked to Arapahoe County sheriff’s dispatch. They will send a deputy by to check.”
Miller says she continually bugged police about the case because she feared as long as Garrett was on the street, others would be victimized.
“I can’t sleep at night knowing there’s going to be more victims like us,” said Miller.With no arrest made, in May of this year, Miller again e-mailed Nebel, this time asking if she and Romero should set up their own “sting” to capture Garrett.
“Would it be a good idea to pretend to be a new client, arrange a meeting, then have the police come meet her instead?” Miller e-mailed the detective. His reply: “Ms. Miller – I sent Jefferson County and Arapahoe County to the addresses. They were unable to find her. If you wanted to set up an appointment with her and call the police for a civil standby you could try it. I would caution you on getting yourself trapped into something that could turn violent or getting into an altercation where your legal grounds might be questionable.”
Murray was asked if police ordinarily encourage citizen-initiated stings.
“Thats not typically how we work,” said Murray. “It’s not necessarily the way to do things, but if it’s not a violent criminal, its something you could do.”
Finally, in May of this year, Miller and Romero, frustrated with the lack of results, asked CBS4 to investigate.
“You can understand our frustration,” said Miller. “We have her name, address, website, Facebook — everything,” said Romero. “She is the opposite of a fugitive, she is not in hiding whatsoever, and here we are with no closure.”
CBS4 simply called the phone number listed on Garrett’s business website asking if she would be available to discuss her bookkeeping services. She immediately called back agreeing to meet June 2 at a Starbucks in Denver. Garrett showed up on time for the job interview.
“My image is being sharp and accurate,” said Garrett as a hidden camera rolled. Asked if she had any previous criminal issues, Garrett replied, “Just a few traffic tickets, nothing else to worry about … I don’t even jaywalk at this point.”
Court records tell a different story, showing Garrett pleaded guilty in 2006 to forgery in Arapahoe County; and pleaded guilty in 2001 in Denver to check forgery, a felony.
She spent half an hour describing her bookkeeping business and her methods of operation. When she was eventually asked about the alleged embezzlement, she denied it ever happened.
“No, I never did, I never took the money,” said Garrett. She soon ended the interview and left saying, “I don’t want to be on camera for this.”
One week later, after CBS4 told Denver police about the meeting, Garrett was arrested. Murray defended police actions in the case saying, “It’s not like he (Nebel) put it in a drawer and didn’t do anything until last week. I know the attempts he made (to find Garrett) were unsuccessful. We would have loved to have caught her sooner,” said Murray. “We have a lot of different cases we would love to solve immediately. unfortunately we’re not able to do that. We don’t want to fail, we can’t catch everyone. Like every agency we have limited resources and we do the best we can.”
Murray said there are 10,000 active warrants in DPD’s system and the department’s fugitive unit, made up of six detectives, primarily focuses on pursuing violent criminals. He said the department’s fugitive unit apprehends 86 percent of the suspects they are assigned to pursue. Murray acknowledged property crimes — even ones involving nearly $87,000, are a lower priority than violent criminals.
For Miller and Romero the department’s reasons don’t pass muster.
“This just shows crime does pay, as long as you don’t answer the door when police come, there are no consequences for your actions,” they said.
“It’s just kind of unfortunate we’ve had to look to outside sources to draw attention and hold their feet to the fire,” said Miller. “They failed us, that’s all I can say.”
As for Garrett, she is scheduled to be arraigned in court Aug. 12 for felony theft of more than $20,000.